I care about this, because Lorde’s music is the type you make memories with, or in my case, make up memories for. She writes words to live for. Lorde’s wit and sharp imagery stays intact, thank God, through Antonoff’s synths marching in the disco production. “But my hips have missed your hips,” Lorde sings in Sober, and definitively, we know we’re not in the suburbs anymore with her. “So, let’s get to know the tricks, will you sway with me, go astray with me?”
Turns out all I needed to do was to put my headphones on, bring Lorde’s voice as close to my ear canals as possible. It is what needs to be heard the most, her voice, amid the glittering production. I hated that I couldn’t hear her lyrics. It felt suffocating, incidentally, kind of like being in the middle of a dance floor full of people and being unhappy about that fact.
The magic happens towards the middle of the album. There, she shifts gears, and takes us to the heat of her heartbreak. The big why of it all. “Baby really hurt me, crying in the taxi, he don’t wanna know me, says he made the big mistake of dancing in my storm. Says it was poison.“ This is not a concept album about a breakup, because that’s not what Lorde does. She tells her stories, weaves emotional atmosphere with the tangible everyday. Her specificity feels close to home. “Now we sit in your car and our love is a ghost. Well I guess I should go,” she sings.
It is frankly, a selfish relief that she remains Our Lady of Sorrows, Big Hair, and Elemental Dancing. Her weakest songs are songs that sound like anything else on the Top 40 (Homemade Dynamite, Supercut), but even her “worst” is better than most. And the absolute gems? It combines her hypnotic poetry with grand production, and a dose of sonic surprises (thanks to the deft hands of Flume). She whips you out of dreary old Manila and into her Auckland, dreaming with her of Paris. “But we’re the greatest, they’ll hang us at the Louvre. Down the back, but who cares, still the Louvre.” And ultimately, Lorde can’t be faulted for wanting to broadcast the “boom boom boom and make them all dance to it.”
A heartbreak will change you. It should. Some people are not going to like who you become after. But as Lorde shows us, we don’t have to wait for a green light from anyone else. We flip the switch ourselves. “I care for myself the way I used to care about you,” Lorde sings with the victory of someone who survived the five stages of a break-up. We can fail and flail and f*** and f*** up. If with “Pure Heroine,” all we had is our friends, with “Melodrama,” we reach an inevitable conclusion with Lorde, a truth about growing up. Quoting RuPaul, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gon’ love somebody else?” Cool. Now I have a soundtrack to my next hard fall and foray into love, and the inevitable nuclear aftermath. Thanks, girl.